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Canada – Mexico Relations

by Brent May


The relationship between Mexico and Canada has continued to grow since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1944. Our trade and investment relationship has seen strong growth since the entry into force of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Today, with increasing bilateral trade and investment; regular parliamentary meetings; bilateral security and military dialogues; North American collaboration with our common neighbour, the United States, in areas such as security, competitiveness and the environment; as well as international and regional cooperation in forums such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States, Canada and Mexico have become important strategic partners.

The Canada-Mexico relationship is characterized by sustained political engagement and regular dialogue in the bilateral, North American, hemispheric and multilateral contexts. Dialogue is pursued through a variety of means, ranging from periodic high-level consultations to inter-parliamentary meetings and the North American Leaders Summits, to more institutionalized mechanisms such as the innovative Canada-Mexico Partnership (CMP). The CMP, established in 2004, aims at promoting collaboration between the public and private sectors and operates through a series of working groups dealing with trade, investment and innovation, agri-business, housing and community development, environment and forestry, human capital development, energy and labour mobility. A multi-track security dialogue involving annual security consultations as well as political-military and military talks is complemented by security and justice cooperation through the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program.

In February 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, together with Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico, announced a renewed 2014-2016 Canada-Mexico Joint Action Plan that outlines four priorities for the bilateral relationship: fostering competitive and sustainable economies, protecting citizens of both countries, enhancing people-to-people contacts and projecting the partnership regionally and globally.

canada-mexico-relations-flagCanada and Mexico are each other’s third largest trading partner. Canada-Mexico two-way trade amounted to $34.3 billion in 2014. This is a remarkable increase of more than 650% in merchandise trade since 1993, the year before NAFTA came into force. Canadian direct investment in Mexico reached over $12.3 billion (stock) in 2013, while Mexican direct investment in Canada totaled $22 million (stock) in 2013. There is a significant number of Canadian companies that export to Mexico. Mexico is also a priority market for Export Development Canada (EDC), which has had a resident presence since 2000, providing extensive financial services related to Canadian exports and Canadian investments in the country. Mexico’s demographic and economic prospects point toward an even greater growth in commercial exchanges.

Mexico is the second-most important tourist destination for Canadians, with over 2 million Canadians travelling to Mexico every year. A significant number of Canadians, particularly a growing proportion of retirees, have purchased property in Mexico and spend extended periods there. Northbound, Canada saw a surge in visitors from Mexico during the second half of 2014 and the outlook remains strong. According to the Canadian Tourism Commission, more than 172,000 Mexicans vacationed in Canada during 2014, up 14% compared to 2013.

In addition, Canada receives yearly approximately 20,000 agricultural workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, often cited as a model for international labour-mobility arrangements, as well as 5,000 students. Academic and cultural ties are essential components of our relationship. There are significant exchanges and cooperation at the academic level, with more than 400 signed agreements among universities and higher-education institutions. During Prime Minister Harper’s February 2014 visit to Mexico, he and President Peña Nieto noted that cooperation on higher education and innovation is a powerful tool for strengthening the bilateral relationship. Mexico is one of the major recipients of Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program scholarships, with 396 Mexican students benefiting from the program since it was launched in 2009. Mexican researchers also benefit from the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships programs. Mexican students are eligible for International Experience Canada. This initiative benefits Canadian and Mexican youth by making it easier for them to gain invaluable travel, work and life experience in each other’s country for up to one year—an opportunity that will greatly enrich their personal and professional development and further deepen the people-to-people ties between Canadians and Mexicans.

Recent High-Level Meetings and Visits

2014 was a landmark year for Canada-Mexico relations, marking the 70th anniversary of bilateral relations, the 40th anniversary of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, and the 10th anniversary of the Canada-Mexico Partnership. This was highlighted by Prime Minister Harper’s first official bilateral visit to Mexico on February 17-18, 2014, followed by the North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca on February 19, 2014. During the bilateral visit, Canada and Mexico signed several important agreements including: the Third Mexico-Canada Joint Action Plan; the Air Transport Agreement; a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation in Export Credits between Export Development Canada (EDC) and Bancomext; a Master Cooperation Agreement between EDC, Bancomext, and major Canadian and Mexican banks; as well as an MOU on Forest Fire Management.

Other high-level meetings and visits have taken place over the last several years, including: the November 2012 visit of then-President-Elect Peña Nieto to Ottawa; the Governor General’s attendance at the Inauguration of President Peña Nieto in December 2012; and Foreign Affairs Minister Baird’s visit to Mexico in February 2013. Minister Baird also met with his Mexican counterpart Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade on the margins of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Asuncion, Paraguay on June 3-5, 2014; at the Pacific Alliance Leaders Summit on June 20-21, 2014, where Canada is an observer nation; in Dallas in October 2014, and most recently, on the margins of the North American Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Boston at the end of January in 2015. Minister Fast has met frequently with his counterpart, Mexican Secretary of the Economy, Ildefonso Guajardo, most recently on the margins of the Trans-Pacific Partnership meeting on Oct 25, 2014 in Sydney, Australia, and at the North American Competitiveness and Innovation Conference (NACIC) on Oct 31, 2014 in Toronto.

The Canada-Mexico relationship continues to flourish.

Article credit: Government of Canada

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